Last Friday, on the feast of St. Jude, patron of hopeless cases, a new bishop was named to serve in Palawan. Pope Francis has appointed Fr. Socrates Mesiona, MSP to succeed Bishop Pedro Arigo as Apostolic Vicar of Puerto Princesa. In the Catholic Church, bishops are considered to be successors to the apostles of Jesus. Bishop Arigo is turning 78 years in a week’s time. He has painstakingly extended his service to our local church after he lapsed the mandatory age of retirement for bishops at 75 years old. Bishop Arigo (he will be referred to officially as Bishop Emeritus Arigo) has served Palawan for a total of 20 years. On the other hand, Fr. Soc (now officially addressed to as Bishop-elect), is only 53 years old. He is perceived to be considerably young to become a bishop just yet. They say that in love, age does not matter. The same could be well said in loving the church and doing mission.
The appointment of Bishop-elect Soc was stunning. It has a semblance way back when the unfamiliar name Jorge Bergoglio became Pope Francis. Both pulled a surprise since their names were not even around the coverage of our human radar. Their names were unheard of in any fancy chitchat nor in guessing games. Respectively, both come from a far away land; Jorge being from Argentina to Rome and Bishop-elect Soc is from Tagbilaran to Palawan. Indeed, our God is of surprises.
Notably, three big letters are suffixed to the name of the Bishop-elect — MSP. It stands for Mission Society of the Philippines. As an ordained minister, these letters are family, identity and mission to the Bishop-elect Soc. As the term itself suggests, his foremost task then is to become missionary. He is sent fort to far and “unexplored” places. For instance, several MSP priests are now stationed in Papua New Guinea, Oceania, Nigeria, Guyana, Cook Islands, Taiwan, to mention just a few.. Coincidentally, up until now, Palawan is very much categorized as mission territory; it has yet to evolve to become a diocese (God knows when). Apparently, this augurs well to the man and his task – a missionary in a mission territory.
Technically, Bishop-elect Soc will only be the second bishop to administer the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa. This is after the division of the formerly one ecclesiastical territory in the whole province of Palawan, the other being the Apostolic Vicariate of Taytay comprising of the northern municipalities. To administer is the first and the foremost duty of the bishop. He is called in Greek as “episkopos” which means overseer, guardian or supervisor. In terms of administration or governance, Bishop-elect Soc brings with him formidable experience. To wit: seminary rector, secretary-general and eventually superior general of MSP, executive secretary of a Commission in CBCP, national director of Pontifical Mission Societies of the Philippines and professor in missiology class at Divine Word School of Theology in Tagaytay City.
No date has been set yet for the episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Soc. A liturgical ceremony will also be held for him to be installed as “overseer”. This is called as the canonical possession of the bishop of his ecclesiastical territory. Then and there he will already be addressed to officially as Bishop Socrates Mesiona, D.D., Apostolic Vicar of the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa.
Meanwhile, here’s to the two bishops:
To Bishop Emeritus Edring, Muchas gracias! Que vaya bien.
To Bishop-elect Soc, Mabuhay!